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CLAIMANT HELD INELIGIBLE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS FOR VOLUNTARILY QUITING BEFORE RECEIVING APPROVAL OF TRANSFER REQUEST

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently affirmed a Board of Review decision disqualifying a claimant from receiving New Jersey unemployment benefits for voluntarily quitting her job without good cause attributable to the work.

In the matter of Lydia Oladimeji v. Board of Review, New Jersey Department of Labor and ARC of Middlesex, the claimant, Ms. Oladimeji, was employed as a program specialist for the Association of Retarded Citizens (“ARC”) of Middlesex County. On January 8, 2010, Ms. Oladimeji requested a job transfer to a group home position so that she could attend nursing school during the day. After requesting the job transfer, Ms. Oladimeji testified that she did not receive any definitive response regarding whether the transfer had been denied or approved. Ms. Oladimeji further testified that she was told that to write a letter advising that she would no longer be available for work as of January 25, 2010 for personal reasons. ARC received the letter and accepted it as a letter of resignation. ARC testified that they advised Ms. Oladimeji that her request for a transfer would take time and that she would have to have an interview in order to be transferred to a new position. ARC disputed Ms. Oladimeji’s testimony that she was told by her employer to resign from her employment.

In its decision to disqualify Ms. Oladimeji from receiving New Jersey unemployment benefits, the Appeal Tribunal concluded that Ms. Oladimeji did not begin the process early enough for a job opening to occur and that the claimant could have preserved her job by delaying her enrollment into nursing school for a later session after a job transfer became available. The Appeal Tribunal noted that N.J.S.A. 43:21-5 disqualifies a claimant from receiving New Jersey unemployment benefits if he or she leaves work in order to further their education or prepare themselves for another type of work. Based upon their findings of fact and its application of New Jersey unemployment benefits law, the Appeal Tribunal held that Ms. Oladimeji left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. The Board of Review upheld the Appeal Tribunal’s decision.

In reviewing the Board of Review and Appeal Tribunal’s decision, the Appellate Division stated that its role in reviewing an administrative agency’s decision is limited and that it will not reverse an administrative agency’s decision unless there is a showing that it was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, that it lacked fair support in the evidence, or that it violated legislative polices. The Appellate court further stated that the record fully supported the Appeal Tribunal’s determination that the claimant’s testimony lacked creditability that she did not voluntarily resign her employment and that it was not their role to evaluate the creditability of witnesses. As a result, the Appellate Division stated that the Appeal Tribunal’s determination was reasonably made and that the claimant was ineligible to receive New Jersey unemployment benefits because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the job.